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July 7, 2017

In-Depth Issues:

Video: The 2017 Maccabiah Games Opening Ceremony in Jerusalem - Kayla Steinberg (Jerusalem Post)
    Participants from over 80 countries gathered at the opening ceremony of the 20th Maccabiah Games in Jerusalem on Thursday.
    Israeli President Reuven Rivlin told the attendees, "Welcome home. It's so great to see you here in Jerusalem, Israel's capital city, rebuilt and free....Our country is your country. Our home is your home."
    See also Video: Maccabiah 2017 Opens with a Surprise Wedding (Times of Israel)
    See also The "Jewish Olympics" - Ariel Bolstein (Israel Hayom)
    The Maccabiah Games is probably the largest Jewish gathering that voices this simple truth: We are one people.
    Those who have tried to discredit the Maccabiah by labeling it a "racist event" are simply pained by this show of Jewish unity.

Houthis' Non-Traditional War in Bab al-Mandab Includes Booby-Trapped Boats - Bandar Al-Qahtani (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
    Some 25,000 ships annually pass through the Bab al-Mandab Strait, where they are vulnerable to attacks by Houthi and Saleh militias from Yemen.
    According to Abdullah al-Juneid, a political researcher at Jordan's CMT Studies Center, Iran is seeking to achieve geo-strategic goals in the Hormuz Strait, Arab Sea and Bab al-Mandab.
    To that end, it has employed the "Qader" rocket that the Houthis used in their attack against an Emirati relief vessel, Swift, in the Red Sea on Oct. 1, 2016. Similar rocket attacks targeted a U.S. destroyer and an Arab coalition ship.
    "Iran has even developed remote-controlled, booby-trapped boats that were used to attack a Saudi frigate near the Hodeidah coast," al-Juneid said. This same tactic was used to target a Saudi oil platform in the Red Sea.

Israel's Relations with the Syrian Rebels: An Assessment - Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi (Rubin Center-IDC Herzliya)
    It is questionable how far one can really call the rebels who interact with Israel or commend the country's provision of medical treatment to rebels and civilians as necessarily "friendly."
    At the same time, Iran could realize its aspirations to build a "resistance" front in the Golan Heights through the multiple Syrian Hizbullah groups that have arisen in the course of the civil war, such as Liwa al-Baqir, which claims 4,000 fighters.  

Mennonite Church to Divest in Protest of Israeli Policies (AP-Washington Post)
    The Mennonite Church USA voted Thursday at a national convention in Orlando to direct managers of the $3 billion Everence church fund to regularly screen holdings to avoid any economic support for Israeli policies in the territories.
    The Mennonite Church has 75,000 members.

London Mayor Calls to Ban Hizbullah - Justin Cohen (Jewish News-UK)
    After Hizbullah flags were flown openly during a parade in London last month, London Mayor Sadiq Khan told Labour London assembly member Andrew Dismore that he'd urge Home Secretary Amber Rudd to fully ban the terror group.
    Figures from across the political spectrum have called for a change in the law to proscribe the group's political wing, just as the military wing already is.
    Hizbullah is banned in full by the U.S., Canada and the Arab League.

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Ramallah Has Luxury Hotels, But Struggles to Lure Tourists - Dov Lieber (Times of Israel)
    The Palestinian city of Ramallah, just north of Jerusalem, has grown in recent years into a modern, bustling metropolis, and is a window into the political, cultural and social lives of the Palestinian people.
    Three five-star hotels have opened in the past decade, with another on the way. But according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the occupancy rate hovers at just 27%.
    See also Luxury Alongside Poverty in the Palestinian Authority (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

Definitive Test for Parkinson's Disease Developed in Israel - Ruth Schuster (Ha'aretz)
    Suaad Abd-Elhadi of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has developed a test that detects Parkinson's - a degenerative brain disease - both definitively and earlier.

Israel: The Hottest New Destination for Asian Travelers - Zara Stone (OZY)
    Israel is becoming increasingly popular with Asians.
    In May 2017, tourist arrivals from India were up 42% from the year before, and those from China increased 68.6%.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Ships Exporting Iranian Oil Go Dark, Raising Sanctions Red Flags - Sarah McFarlane and Benoit Faucon
    Ships transporting almost a fifth of Iran's oil exports in the second half of 2016 either turned off their radio-signal tracking systems or gave misleading information about the origin of their cargo, red flags for the evasion of international sanctions against Tehran. Some 47 of 55 ships carrying Iranian oil products from Iran to the UAE failed to emit signals that transmit their position and course, for part or all of their journey, according to an analysis for the Wall Street Journal by ship-tracker Windward Ltd., an Israeli firm that uses satellite imaging to map shipping routes.
        The U.S. government is analyzing ship movements in the Persian Gulf for any attempts to circumvent bans on funding Iran's weapons programs or clearing payments for Iranian oil through the U.S. financial system, a U.S. official said. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Lord Grade Condemns BBC over Israel Coverage - Ben Weich
    Speaking in the 6 July debate in the House of Lords on the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, Lord Grade, a former chairman of the BBC, said: "On 16 June two Palestinians, unprovoked, attacked Israeli police officers in Jerusalem with guns and knives, while a third stabbed to death Border Police Staff Sergeant Hadas Malka, aged 23. "The BBC's headline on its news website was 'Three Palestinians killed after deadly stabbing in Jerusalem.' The BBC eventually changed its headline to 'Israeli policewoman stabbed to death in Jerusalem.'"
        "This example demonstrates the drip-drip effect of unqualified, un-contextualized, singling out of Israel for criticism. If the BBC can get this wrong, it is little wonder that Israel finds it so hard to put aside the idea that some critics are motivated by something more sinister than political commentary."  (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
        See also House of Lords Told Britain Should "Celebrate" Role in Balfour Declaration - Jenni Frazer
    In one of the most pro-Israel debates heard in Parliament for years, peer after peer highlighted the Jewish state's achievements in a House of Lords commemoration of the 1917 Balfour Declaration. Lord Turnberg said, "We should celebrate the fact that we in Britain provided the foundations of a democratic state in a part of the world where democracy is in very short supply."
        The former chief rabbi, Lord Sacks, said, "It's tragic that a century after the Balfour Declaration significant groups still seek to deny the Jewish people a home, among them Iran and Hizbullah and Hamas....It is shameful that the Jewish people still has to fight for the right to exist in the land that for 33 centuries it has called home."  (Jewish News-UK)
        See also Video: Rabbi Sacks at the House of Lords on the Centenary of the Balfour Declaration (YouTube)
  • ANC Resolves to Downgrade South African Embassy in Israel - Ra'eesa Pather
    The African National Congress (ANC) has adopted a policy recommendation to downgrade the South African embassy in Israel to a liaison office in a bid to reduce diplomatic ties to Israel. ANC Western Cape provincial secretary Faiez Jacobs said, "The initial call by some provinces was that we close our embassy in Israel. However, a consensus agreement was reached that we recommend a downgrade to a Liaison Office." The party's national conference in December will still have to approve the resolution before it is final and the government can implement it. (Mail & Guardian-South Africa)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Tells U.S. It Opposes Russia Policing Safe Zones in Southern Syria - Barak Ravid
    In talks with the U.S. on the establishment of de-escalation zones, known as safe zones, in southern Syria near the Israeli and Jordanian borders as part of an effort to end Syria's civil war, Israel told Brett McGurk, special American envoy for the global coalition to counter Islamic State, that it opposes having Russian forces supervise these zones, senior Israeli officials said.
        Israel wants talks on de-escalation zones along the Israeli and Jordanian borders to be completely separate from the current negotiations in Astana, Kazakhstan, in which Iran and Turkey are heavily involved. Washington has accepted this position and is holding separate talks with Moscow and Amman over the zones in southern Syria.
        Israel wants the de-escalation zones in southern Syria to keep Iran, Hizbullah and other Shi'ite militias away from the Israeli and Jordanian borders. Prime Minister Netanyahu discussed the idea of de-escalation zones with Russian President Putin by telephone on Thursday. (Ha'aretz)
  • Indian Prime Minister Modi Bids Israel Farewell in Hebrew - Itay Blumenthal
    Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi left Israel at the end of a three-day visit on Thursday, bidding the people of Israel goodbye in Hebrew and English on his Twitter page to his 31 million followers. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu bid Modi farewell with a tweet of his own in Hindi. (Ynet News)
        See also Video: India's Modi and Netanyahu Visit Mobile Desalination Unit
    On the third day of Indian Prime Minister Modi's visit to Israel, he and Prime Minister Netanyahu walked on the Mediterranean shore in Netanya on Thursday while attending a demonstration of a mobile desalination unit. (i24news)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • What ISIS Really Thinks about the Future - Hassan Hassan
    The jihadist project will continue to inspire violence for years to come, regardless of how ISIS fares militarily on the ground in Syria and Iraq. ISIS is now a full-fledged international organization seeking to reclaim the mantle of global jihadism from al-Qaeda, its former patron. By its own count, the group carried out 1,800 suicide attacks in Iraq, Syria and world-wide, and killed close to 200,000 people. It claimed 35 provinces across the region.
        While ISIS is expected to lose control of what were once its two capitals, Mosul and Raqqa, territorial control is not the main metric to judge its success. ISIS began to articulate its post-caliphate strategy beginning last May when its former spokesman, Abu Muhammad Al Adnani, prepared the group's followers for the fall of "all cities" under its control. Territorial loss, he explained, would merely be the beginning of a new chapter in its campaign against its enemy.
        An editorial in the weekly Al Naba summed up the group's strategy after its expulsion from former strongholds in Iraq: "The mujahideen retreated into the desert after leaving behind tens of concealed mujahideen from among the security squads [sleeper cells], which killed, inflicted pain, drained and tormented them."
        ISIS seeks to present itself as the true heir to Osama bin Laden. The attacks against Iranian targets in Tehran last month was, to a significant degree, an attempt to undermine al-Qaeda, which had never carried out attacks in Iran. The increasing role of Iran in countries like Iraq and Syria will ensure the continuation of ISIS' appeal among individuals and groups that see Iran as the usurper of their lands. The writer is a senior fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy. (The National-Abu Dhabi)
  • Iran Fighting in Syria to the Last Shia Proxy - Michael Eisenstadt
    Iran has never committed more than the minimum force needed to keep Syrian President Assad in power. It had 700 men in Syria prior to its brief surge in late 2015 - which raised force levels to about 3,000 - most of whom it withdrew shortly thereafter, having experienced a spike in losses. The number is now 1,500.
        Iran has tried to cut its own losses in Syria by fighting to the last non-Iranian Shia proxy, even when its own forces would have been more effective. Iran has lost nearly 500 military personnel in more than five years of fighting in Syria. In comparison, losses suffered by its proxy militias include more than 1,900 Iraqis, 1,100 Lebanese Hizbullah (1,700, according to Israeli estimates), 700 Afghans, and 150 Pakistanis. The writer is director of the Military and Security Studies Program at The Washington Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Israel and India's Not-So-Secret Friendship - Palki Sharma Upadhyay
    Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken more than three years to visit a country that rolled out the red carpet to him when he was the Chief Minister of Gujarat in 2006. One reason that delayed his visit was the prevailing government in the U.S.  Given former President Obama's fraught ties with Netanyahu, New Delhi wanted to avoid any dissonance in Washington. Moreover, there has been no sign of the supposed protest from the Muslim community in India, a fear expressed by previous governments to avoid going full throttle with Israel.
        Israel has supported India, both militarily and otherwise, in wars since the 1960s, even when there were no diplomatic ties. The Israelis were the first ones to call Bangladesh East Bengal and not Pakistan in 1971 - something that even India's then staunch ally the Soviet Union did not do. When the Kargil war broke out in Kashmir in 1999, an Israeli team flew in on a chartered plane to offer help to India. Modi's visit to Israel is a way to appreciate old gestures and build on them. (DNA-India)
        See also India and Israel: A Strategic Alliance? - Oded Eran
    The writer served as Israel's ambassador to the EU and Jordan. (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
  • India Gives Israel a Firm Embrace - Sadanand Dhume
    Narendra Modi's visit to Israel this week reflects deep changes in India's domestic politics. Traditional opponents of a closer India-Israel relationship have lost in the court of public opinion. Modi's visit to Israel was possible because he is on the winning side of a debate at home about the Jewish state.
        The leaders of India in the early decades of independence showed no love for Israel. While his country was still a British colony, Jawaharlal Nehru opposed the 1917 Balfour Declaration in which the British opened the door to a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine. Three decades later, after Nehru became prime minister, India opposed the 1948 creation of Israel at the UN. New Delhi only recognized the Jewish state in 1950, and didn't establish full diplomatic relations until more than four decades later.
        Today, many middle-class Indians view Israel not as the neocolonial oppressor of caricature, but as Americans do: A plucky country surrounded by dangerous neighbors that has thrived against the odds. Some are also attracted to Jewish civilization because, like Hinduism, it predates Islam and Christianity.
        A 2009 survey by the Israeli Foreign Ministry found India to be the most pro-Israel of those countries surveyed, ahead even of the U.S. The notion of slowing down India-Israel ties out of deference to either pan-Islamic sentiment worldwide or domestic Muslim sentiment finds few takers. The writer is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Our Saudi Arabian Frenemy - Melanie Phillips
    The need to halt Iran's drive for regional hegemony, and the resulting Shia dominance over the Sunni Islamic world, has driven the Saudis into a tacit alliance not only with America but also, remarkably, with Israel. The new crown prince, Muhammad bin Salman, reportedly wants to drag his country into the modern era. But will he work to defeat the fanatical Wahhabi Islam that his country helped promote, and through which Saudi Arabia has fueled the export of Islamic cultural conquest, terrorism and holy war across the globe?
        In Britain, the security service says there are 23,000 known home-grown Islamist extremists. A report published this week by the Henry Jackson Society says foreign funding for Islamist extremism in Britain primarily comes from Saudi Arabia. The writer is a columnist for The Times (UK). (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Foreign Funded Islamist Extremism in the UK - Tom Wilson (Henry Jackson Society)

  • Weekend Features

  • Israel Is Buying Copter Drones for Urban Warfare - Patrick Tucker
    The Israeli military is buying small multi-rotor drones modified to carry a machine gun, a grenade launcher and a variety of other weapons to fight tomorrow's urban warfare battles. Lt. Col. Raziel "Razi" Atuar, a 20-year veteran of the Israeli military and a reservist in the Israeli Special Forces, co-founded Duke Robotics in 2014 along with a paratrooper-turned-robotic engineer and another IDF buddy. He says he was tired of watching his comrades die in chaotic street battles. A former battalion commander, Atuar fought in several Israeli urban warfare operations, including the 2014 operation in Gaza - the kind the U.S. military believes will typify fighting in the decades ahead.
        Because of recoil when a weapon is fired, a quadcopter hovering in the air will likely be knocked out of position. If you rig a pistol to a quadcopter, the drone will move chaotically with every shot. The TIKAD drone made by the Florida startup distributes the backward momentum in a way that keeps the vehicle stationary in the air. In 2015, Israeli Special Forces took out a target with a sniper rifle mounted on an off-the-shelf consumer drone supplied by Duke Robotics. (Defense One)
  • India to Get Armed UAVs from Israel - Tara Kartha
    Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can go deep into enemy territory and even loiter at a height that is in some cases more than that of a commercial aircraft. India has purchased Israel's Heron TP, said to be capable of travelling up to 36 hours, at a height above 30,000 ft. The writer is former director of India's National Security Council Secretariat. (Firstpost-India)
  • Rajasthan Reaps Rich Dividend of India-Israel Cooperation - Saurabh Sharma
    Burgeoning cooperation between India and Israel has been most beneficial for Rajasthan, with the state receiving the best technical know-how in the agricultural sector and water conservation. For Rajasthan's chief minister, Israel has become a must stop over the last decade. Chief minister Vasundhara Raje visited Israel in 2006 and CM Ashok Gehlot went there in 2013.
        With technical assistance from Israel, Rajasthan was among the first states in the country to adopt drip irrigation. Crops of olives and dates, which were unfamiliar to Indian farmers, are now gaining acceptance in the state. "There is so much to learn from Israel in the dairy sector, water recycling, horticulture and farming," said Prabhulal Saini, Agriculture Minister of Rajasthan. (Times of India)

Gaza's Inhabitants Share the Blame with Hamas - Hillel Frisch (BESA Center-Bar-Ilan University)

  • Many assert that Israel must act to improve Gazans' economic welfare, even if this means that Hamas will increase its revenue through taxation of the incoming goods. That revenue is used for terrorist training, armaments, missiles, digging tunnels into Israel, and cultural programs geared at killing and maiming Israelis - measures that cost Israeli lives.
  • The claim that Gaza's inhabitants are hapless victims of Hamas simply has no moral basis. They are silent about, or even openly support, the trading of Israeli soldiers' corpses for Hamas terrorists. Few in Gaza can claim never to have seen the videos Hamas released of Israeli soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, which were aired on all the Hamas and Islamic Jihad outlets and viewed by tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands.
  • The open support for this evinced across Gaza's social media outlets is especially reprehensible in light of Islamic law, which specifically prohibits such acts. Islamic law has a rich legal tradition on these matters and the rulings are explicit. Islamic law prohibits the taking of innocent prisoners, and the trading of corpses for prisoners or for a ransom is specifically forbidden.
  • Where are the voices of Islamic clergy, Palestinian religious officials in the PA, the Gaza-based Association of Palestinian Islamic Scholars (Rabitat Ulama Filastin), the Islamic men of religious letters, the qadis (religious judges)? Where are their counterparts within the State of Israel?
  • Why, then, are they silent over the persistent, flagrant violation of Islamic law by an organization, Hamas, that considers itself a movement of wasatiyya - the middle-of-the-road Islamic path that presumably opposes the radical jihadism propounded by ISIS and al-Qaeda? If Hamas is so different from ISIS, why is it so similar in deed to that organization?
  • Gazans can expect Israeli empathy only if they take a stand against the barbarism of trading in corpses or incarcerating the mentally unbalanced in order to release terrorists. Gazans need to demonstrate their commitment to basic human values that comport with their Islamic convictions.

    The writer is a professor of political and Middle East studies at Bar-Ilan University and a senior research associate at its Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.
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